I’m feeling a bit confused by all the pictures of the small (and remarkably adorable) chocolate baby on your blog/facebook/etc, and also Zack . . . What is going on: have you adopted one or both of these children? If not, then what-in-the-actual-heck is the situation with them? Also, I thought you said you guys were going to adopt - is this still the plan?
Anyhow, the easy answer to your question is this: no, we have not adopted (or have plans to adopt) either Amir or Zack. Amir’s beautiful momma is still in high school, and sometimes we watch him while she goes to school. Occasionally, he spends the night with us, because she begs for a break. And this momma understands full well the need for a break. For rest, for sleep with both eyes closed, and strength to face a full day of work or school or simply putting one foot in front of the other.
Adam and I have discovered a surprising comfortability with living right there in the tension between ours and not-ours. Often, we will engage in conversations with people about how we want to foster. Typically, the person we’re talking to will say something like oh I’ve always wanted to foster, but I just wouldn’t ever be able to give the babies back. That’s too hard. And because I am a people pleaser/conflict-avoider of epic proportions, I typically nod my head in understanding and murmur something along the lines of oh yes that would be entirely too hard.
But here’s the take-a-deep-breath truth: Just because something’s hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Caden’s surgery and time in the hospital taught us, stretched us, and ultimately strengthened us, more than any other period of my life. Including kindergarten, and all four years of college. But perhaps the biggest lesson I walked through during that time was this one: there are no guarantees.
It becomes far easier to give our babies back when we recognize they were never ours to begin with. We can never really know how long we have to invest in these lives. Jayci, Caden, Amir, Zack, and every single kid who walks through my door is a gift. Offered extravagantly to me by the author of the Universe. And therefore, I will treat each reverently and love each deeply, recognizing them as such.
I’m not saying everyone should be a foster parent. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure we will ever officially become foster parents at this point. I do know this, as long as God keeps crossing our paths with kiddos and babies and teenagers who need a loving place to eat and maybe even sleep: we will continue to live with our doors flung wide. Maybe not even because they need us, but because we need them. Because without them, without the marginalized, the fatherless, the least-of-these; I have a terrible propensity towards selfishness, towards easy.
Last week, we had Amir for three days and two nights. Two very long, very sleepless nights. On night number two, I sat in our dark bedroom, bouncing lightly at the foot of the bed while Adam slept deep. Moonlight and streetlights co-mingled in stripes streaming through bamboo blinds. Amir’s tiny brown eyes finally closed, lashes on cheeks, and his fists unfurled. I lay him gently back down, climbing under covers to warm my toes. And just when my own eyes flutter shut, I hear his little grunts, the ones that quickly accelerate to cries. I pop back up and resume my bed-end perch.
The thought flits into my mind before I can stop it: I shouldn’t be doing this. I deserve my sleep. I’m not the irresponsible teenager who had a baby I can’t take care of.
I look around the dark room, realizing how far I’ve fallen from my high horse and trying desperately to clamber back up. Forgetting, of course, that no one finds grace atop her high horse.
And so I grasp lightly the gifts God gives us for the seasons we have them. We pull an extra chair up to the table and forgo sleep for a night or two. We wash the smell of grease and cigarettes from Amir’s baby curls and drive Zack thirty minutes to school because he missed the bus and has a test. I worry less about enabling and hard-lines-in-the-sand, and more about loving with the kind of love that enters in. I ignore the voices that whisper it is too hard. Because of course it leans hard; the cross was never intended for easy. We bend low, and meet our Savior there. Every single time.
O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden house
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.